WASHINGTON, D.C.–Anne Garner sat on Steak ‘n Egg Kitchen‘s patio on a sunny Friday morning reading and eating breakfast.
The 65-year-old said the food is amazing, it’s always cooked perfectly and it’s inexpensive.
“The people, the staff, are wonderful,” Garner said.
Garner prefers independent businesses because they are “more unique” and great for the community, a fact that research supports.
In 2012, Civic Economics found local restaurants, on average, recirculate 79 percent of their revenue locally compared to chain restaurants’ 30 percent.
Independent stores help the local economy, but many in both rural and urban areas are facing competition from chain franchises and big box retailers.
Many small businesses in Washington, D.C. know they face tough competition and take steps to stay in business.
Laurie Tucker, an owner of a small health and wellness business from Greenville, Rhode Island, likes to support other small businesses.
“You have to find your niche, you give that personal piece that the big chains [can’t],” said Tucker, 44.
In Tenleytown, down Wisconsin Avenue from Steak ‘n Egg Kitchen, there’s a Panera, a Chick-fil-A, and a Starbucks. Tenleytown residents said this week that although they prefer to support small businesses, they often end up at chain stores.
Linda Jewell, 63, stood in line at Starbucks while talking about her preference for local businesses. She said local shops offer a better sense of community. So why was she at a chain?
“I feel sort of guilty about it,” Jewell admitted.
David Smick, 63, said he’ll pick a chain shop because it’s a known quality.
Jennifer Chapman agreed. She and others support chain franchises for the “standardized, predictable, quality.”
Chapman, 51, said she sometimes favors local spots like Busboys and Poets but other times said doesn’t pay much attention.
“I’m more indifferent to it,” Chapman said.
Back at Steak ‘n Egg Kitchen, Garner, who has lived in Washington, D.C. for 40 years, hopes local businesses can survive.
“They’re the best thing,” Garner said. “I just hope they can afford to stay in business. I hope more people can support them.”